All offseason, Royals general manager Dayton Moore has stressed the same theme: The club lacks the resources and financial flexibility to chase significant free-agent acquisitions.
That will likely include one of the best closers in franchise history.
Moore said Tuesday that the club has not had contact with representatives for free-agent reliever Greg Holland since early November, at the general managers’ meetings in Arizona. Barring an unforeseen change, it appears the door is closing on a potential reunion with the former All-Star.
“We haven’t spoken to him since the GM meetings,” Moore said during his daily briefing with reporters Tuesday at the Winter Meetings in suburban Washington D.C. “We’ve simply been working on other things.”
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In most cases, Moore adheres to a strict policy of not commenting about specific free-agent targets. But he made an exception in the case of Holland, a beloved former member of the bullpen who helped the club to consecutive playoff appearances and was part of the 2015 World Series champions.
As Tuesday began, the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers emerged as the most aggressive suitors for Holland, according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. But the market for Holland could hinge on what happens to free-agent closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, wide viewed as the top relievers on the market.
Chapman and Jansen are both said to be seeking bigger deals than the four-year, $62 million contract given to closer Mark Melancon by the San Francisco Giants.
Holland has not pitched in a major-league game since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2015. He elected not to sign with a team last offseason and remained a free agent throughout 2016. He held a showcase for teams in Arizona in early November, where his fastball topped out at close to 91 mph. The Royals sent two team officials to the workout.
“I don’t know if he will ever be what he was … and I mean ‘stuff wise,’ 97, 98 mph,” Royals manager Ned Yost said on Monday. “But the thing about Greg Holland is I’ve never met anybody that was more of a fierce, fearless competitor than he was. When you have that in your DNA, you can get by at 92, 93 mph. It wouldn’t surprise me that he gets back to being the dominant guy that he was before because he’s got that — he has that make-up.”
For now, the Royals’ bullpen is set to feature closer Wade Davis, setup man Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Brian Flynn and a collection of young arms that could include left-hander Matt Strahm and right-hander Josh Staumont. Davis, however, continues to find himself in the middle of trade talks as the Winter Meetings continue.